It’s no secret that marine angelfish are some of the highest profile pets for our saltwater and reef aquariums, and they are certainly among our favorite reef animals to write about. With a circumtropical distribution, their captive breeding breakthroughs, aberrations, and the ways that their hybrids remix the colors & patterns, there’s an endless stream of news and stories regarding our favorite members of Pomacanthidae.
In the previous year of 2018 we had an even mix of all of these topics and special angelfish to write about, and 2019 was no different. However the past calendar year saw our browsers come across some of the most famed, uber rare angelfish species, some exquisite aberrants and hybrids, and some fish species and specimens that the aquarium hobby has simply never seen before.
It’s going to be quite a challenge for the first year of the new decade to rival all the excellent stories we were fortunate enough to write about. But knowing the breadth and pace of the reef and saltwater aquarium fish hobby, we wouldn’t expect anything less than for the collectors, breeders and underwater photographers to fish up some really great surprises.
Sometimes we describe rare fish as ‘Holy Grail’ or unobtainium but the guezei angelfish is a step above even that very exclusive designation since this fish lives so deep and in the remote Mascarene Plateau of the western Indian Ocean. The last few weeks of last year saw one of the most rarest angelfish of all, the fabled reunion angelfish, get photographed in its natural habitat for only the second time ever.
On the other end of the spectrum, we had exciting news that a fairly common fish, the blackspot swallowtail angelfish was being commercially bred by Biota, and these are gradually becoming more widely distributed. Hopefully this early success and experience with one species of Genicanthus will lead to broader protocols for Biota to breed even more of the beloved and graceful swallowtail angelfish species.
Orange coral beauties are well known even though we only learn of several specimens that are collected and offered to aquarists every year. This particular Centropyge bispinosa was almost completely perfectly orange, an indication that we hope means that this fish will retain all or most of its almost blinding orange coloration.
If you’ve been in the aquarium hobby for any length of time, surely by now you’ve heard about the fabled peppermint angelfish. Coming only from the South Pacific Ocean and at depths only reachable by specially trained divers, collections of Paracentropyge boylei are very few and very far between. A dedicated expedition to the Cook Islands yielded a number of live and very healthy peppermint angelfish for the aquarium hobby, with one of these being offered for sale online in the United States.
By sheer coincidence, around the same time that peppermint angelfish were being collected in the Cook Islands, the California Academy of Sciences deep diving team was in Tahiti scooping up some deepwater treasures of their own. A small number of P. boylei were collected and conditioned on site, which eventually made their way to public exhibition at the Steinhart Aquarium. Although there was only one live peppermint angelfish offered for sale and only one high roller with the means to pony up $30,000 for it, anyone can visit the peppermints in San Francisco for the much lower price of admission.
The South Pacific collection efforts in the Cook Islands didn’t just fish up some peppermint angelfish, it also resulted in the capture of a fish we’ve never seen alive in the aquarium trade, or otherwise. The Genicanthus spinus acquired by LiveAquaria may not be the first ever specimen of this very rare species in the aquarium hobby, but it’s pretty darn close. Although the Spinus Angelfish that made it to Rhinelander is a pale light blue female, it’s possible that with behavioral stimulation by being part of a harem of small related Genicanthus angels, this specimen could encouraged to become a more interesting male.
Aberrant specimens of angelfish are really quite normal, and they tend to be more commonly encountered in some of the most common species like Koran angels, or the Coral Beauty angelfish such as in the orange example mentioned above. But for as common as flagfin angelfish are, we can’t think of any significantly aberrant specimens that have appeared in the aquarium hobby, save for this one, and what a bizarre fish it turned out to be.
Of all the angelfish captive breeding breakthroughs we’ve been waiting to hear about, the regal angelfish has been at the top of our list for a number of reasons. Not only are small Pygoplites diacanthus absolutely gorgeous, their finnicky eating preference would certainly benefit from a life begun growing up and feeding on prepared aquarium foods. Not to mention, many aquarium native angelfish show captive breeding artifacts that in breeders usually strive to reduce, but any aberration of the regal angelfish’s many blue, white and yellow bars would possibly be very attractive and desirable.
It’s always a sight to see small and medium sized angelfish hybrids, leaving us to wonder at what their colors and patterns will become when mature, but this jumbo hybrid emperor is already pretty much full grown. This particular hybrid angelfish is believed to be a cross between the emperor and annularis angelfish, and it’s very interesting to see how much of the basic appearance of the emperor angel is dominant in this particular cross.
The Debelius angelfish is among one of the least obtainable species of pygmy angelfish, mostly due to the extreme depths it prefers in the western Indian Ocean. There’s been Centropyge debelius deliberately collected by deep divers in Mauritius before, but the capture of this species was notable both for being found in Madagascar, and also at the very atypical depth of just fifty feet. It’s hard to know how rare this discovery was, whether it was a one-off of both location and depth, but so far this is the only Debelius angelfish that we’ve heard of from Madagascar.